Guardian publishes video of GCHQ harddrive destruction, and an amazingly racist quote from Edward Snowden


rubbishTwo somewhat bizarre mini-twists in the story of Edward Snowden today, both courtesy of my former colleagues at The Guardian.

First off, this video, showing the moment when spooks from Britain’s GCHQ forced Guardian journalists to angle-grind hard drives featuring copies of Edward Snowden’s leaked secrets.

Under the watchful gaze of two technicians from the British government spy agency GCHQ, the journalists took angle-grinders and drills to the internal components, rendering them useless and the information on them obliterated…

In two tense meetings last June and July the cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood, explicitly warned the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, to return the Snowden documents…

At one point Heywood said: “We can do this nicely or we can go to law”. He added: “A lot of people in government think you should be closed down.”

Days later Oliver Robbins, the prime minister’s deputy national security adviser, renewed the threat of legal action… He told the deputy editor, Paul Johnson, the government wanted the material in order to conduct “forensics”. This would establish how Snowden had carried out his leak, strengthening the legal case against the Guardian’s source. It would also reveal which reporters had examined which files…

With the threat of punitive legal action ever present, the only way of protecting the Guardian’s team – and of carrying on reporting from another jurisdiction – was for the paper to destroy its own computers. GCHQ officials wanted to inspect the material before destruction, carry out the operation themselves and take the remnants away. The Guardian refused.

The Guardian has released the video to mark the publication of reporter Luke Harding’s book “The Snowden Files” which tells the story of the newspaper’s relationship with Snowden and former Guardian reporter, Glenn Greenwald.

That book is also the source of today’s second mini-twist: an incredible string of islamophobic invective, posted by a before-he-was-famous Edward Snowden on Ars Technica. Discussing a (then) recent trip to the UK…

[Snowden] said he was unimpressed by east London’s multiracial neighbourhoods, telling one British user of the forum: “It’s where all of your Muslims live. I didn’t want to get out of the car…”

(The quote continued: “I mean it wasn’t like, ‘Hi, we’re your friendly neighborhood Muslim community. welcome to our main street,” he wrote. “It was more like, ‘SUBMIT TO THE WILL OF ALLAH. SHARIAH REGULATIONS POSTED AT ALL CORNERS.’”)

This, remember, is the same Edward Snowden who, after fleeing to Hong Kong, described his disgust at the racism shown by members of the US armed forces. “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said.

I suppose those same Arabs can rest assured that, even had Snowden completed his special forces training, he would have been too scared to get out of his jeep to actually kill any of them.